UK must invest in hydrogen power now, say experts

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The UK must invest in producing more graduates specialising in renewable technologies such as hydrogen in order to establish itself as a global leader in the sector, according to Professor Joe Howe, executive director of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at the University of Chester. Howe says that in order for the UK to innovate new hydrogen technologies in years to come, it needs to produce more experts with the knowledge and skills to develop and research breakthroughs.

His comments come as more than 40 top academics from across the country in the fields of low-carbon energy, renewables, the environment, transport and climate change, back calls by cross-industry group Hydrogen Strategy Now for the UK Government to begin laying the foundations of a UK-wide hydrogen strategy.

41 businesses are currently backing Hydrogen Strategy Now, collectively employing around 100,000 people and with a value of £100 billion in the UK. They are ready to invest up to £1.5 billion in hydrogen projects and create thousands of jobs across the country.

“A hydrogen strategy is essential to the UK stealing a march and becoming a world leader in hydrogen,” said Professor Howe. “But in order for that to be sustained there needs to be far more investment in the education of students in renewable technologies. Technology will not stand still and will constantly need development and new ideas, and the only way we can keep the UK at the forefront of this is by encouraging more graduates to become experts in the field.”

An example of how this can be done is the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre in cyber security at Queen’s University Belfast, which it says has been a world leader in its field for more than 10 years, developing major research breakthroughs and producing more than 100 Masters graduates.

In an open letter, academics from the likes of the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Birmingham say a hydrogen strategy would “reinforce the UK’s standing, reputation and the export potential of our knowledge in this field”.

The letter states: “The UK has a huge number of natural advantages when it comes to hydrogen energy – we have a surplus supply of renewable wind energy, we have a robust energy infrastructure, and we have a highly skilled manufacturing base well-suited to a cutting-edge new technology like hydrogen.

“The benefits of having a strong hydrogen economy are clear – it will drastically reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and create new, green jobs across the country. It can help usher in a new era of zero-carbon transport, through hydrogen buses, trains, lorries and even ships and aeroplanes, as well as zero-carbon heating. It will also provide a huge boost to manufacturing in this country and give the UK the opportunity to lead the world in an exciting renewable and low-carbon technology.”

The group warns that if action is not taken swiftly to create a hydrogen strategy, then it risks being left behind by other countries which are starting to make moves into this area, such as Germany, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada and China, which have all introduced their own hydrogen strategies. The European Commission is also creating an EU hydrogen strategy, including plans for multi-billion-Euro investment in hydrogen projects. Unless the government acts now, the UK risks being left behind, says Howe.

The businesses involved n the campaign are: Adelan, Air Products, Alstom, Anglo American, Arcola,
Arup, Ballard, BayoTech, BCGA, BOC, Bosch, Bramble, Cadent, EDF, ENA, Energy UK,
Enterprise, Equinor, EUA, Green Tomato Cars, ITM, JCB, Johnson Matthey, Kiwa, Nel, Orsted,
Riversimple, Ryse, Siemens, SMMT, Storengy, UK H2Mobility, UKHFCA, ULEMCo, Uniper,
Vattenfall, Wales & West Utilities, Waste2Tricity, Wrightbus, WSP, and Ulemco.

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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